The 10 year vision: personal and business plans are intertwined for entrepreneurs

At the end of every year I write down personal, family and business goals. Those goals help formulate specific tasks that get added to a calendar and guide actions in the coming months. It’s always gratifying to see what got accomplished, what still might need tackling, and to dig back into time to track larger scale progress. This is something I have been doing literally since I was in university and I still have copies of the sheets from all the years in between. While some of those notes are quite amusing to read in hindsight now (always a few hair brained ideas), there is an overall arch to the plan that is gratifying.

The biggest thing I’ve observed is how the act of writing down a goal, and breaking it down into smaller bite size tasks of achievement in a calendar, actually causes stuff to happen! But it’s also interesting to note how priorities and external influences change over time.

One thing I introduced into the process was a 10-year visioning every 10 years. At 35, likely sleep deprived as a new mother, I started doing this. I remember how trying to imagine life at 45 seemed daunting when I could barely balance a new baby and being self-employed in the present. And then at 45 trying to vision life at 55 was equally daunting. The whole process causes you to put yourself in a future place, age those around you – your kids, spouse, parents, the work that you do, trends at play, and ask, “what do I want this to look like?” If forces you into a mind space to see stuff not immediately on your horizon. It forces you to consider how you’d guide it if you could. Life will always toss us curve balls. We can’t be complete control freaks. But the process of imaging allows us to recognize stuff of importance ahead of time, stuff to embrace, stuff to begin to let go of, and stuff we need to shift towards.

When I did this at 45, I’ll admit it was unsettling. It caused me to see the next 10 years where my Mom’s aging health and likely care would collide with a time I wanted to give my kids the experience of travel. Recognizing that the timeline of both generations could never be clawed back, it allowed me to plan for and make choices that give me pride today. It caused me to see our time at the cabin when the kids were 7 & 10 as the window to create memories there, not wait for 5-10 years to make it nice. It caused me to see kids as temporary, a relationship as long term, and to shift priorities for that.  It caused me to see those 10 years as the time to make my business take off, and to become a thought leader. It was in 2008 that I launched this blog, joined CAPS (Canadian Association of Professional Speakers), and vowed to publish a book. I went on to publish two books during that time period, became a CSP (Certified Speaking Professional), served on the national board of CAPS, and developed a thriving speaking, writing and consulting business.  It was tough to see myself at 55, when I was 45 caught in the chaos of kid’s soccer, PAC school leadership and fundraisers, wanting to embrace life while growing a business. I found it hard to envision children finished high school, off to college, or possibly launched. I found it heart wrenching to contemplate a time when my Mom would no longer be with us. But it also helped me put the cycle of life in perspective and to embrace what was ahead.

Why does all this personal stuff matter?

Because as entrepreneurs, our personal life is totally intertwined with our professional life. It’s impossible to plan for a future business vision without first considering what your personal 10-year visioning process will look like.

What does your next 10 years look like? What excites you? What scares you?

This year my 10-year visioning left me both excited and a little un-hinged. But having done it before, I know this now as a familiar feeling. Once we visit the future, we’re able better to plan for it, and to a certain extent, create it to our liking. We subconsciously set ourselves up to recognize when something is an opportunity, or a natural evolution – to be embraced or let go.

What have I got in store for the next 10 years? Whether it all comes to fruition, we’ll have to see, but I know for certain it’s going to be one heck of a ride. How about you?




Mary Charleson

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